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Municipal Art Society Offers Renovation Advice for Con Ed Pier

By Mary Johnson | December 13, 2011 8:45pm
After the groups brainstormed ideas for the pier at the charette in July, they hung their plans along the wall. Many groups had ideas in common.
After the groups brainstormed ideas for the pier at the charette in July, they hung their plans along the wall. Many groups had ideas in common.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

TURTLE BAY — A decrepit former Con Edison pier, occupying a chunk of waterfront between East 38th to East 41st Street, could become a glittering spot for outdoor movies, concerts and bird-watching if the Municipal Art Society has its way.

The city leased the East River pier to the utility for a number of years, but that agreement ended recently, with Con Edison paying some $13 million to sever its ties with the city. With those funds earmarked for structural renovations to secure the foundation of the 34,000-square-foot pier before it's turned into a public park, much debate has been centered on what should be done with the vacated pier.

After hosting a daylong conference in July to discuss potential concepts for the space, the Municipal Art Society released some guiding principles for the renovation project on Tuesday. These include changing the elevation throughout the park to reduce noise from the FDR Drive and creating spaces for public events.

"If the resulting design principles are used to guide this project, the waterfront park on the former Con Ed pier will be an exceptionally vibrant and versatile resource for all New Yorkers," said Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, in a statement.

The pier also needs to accommodate a variety of visitors and uses, providing access to the water while creating pathways for cyclists, skaters and pedestrians. Incorporating native plants into the design—even adding community gardens and tidal pools and locations for bird-watching— could help make the park a destination and entice people to visit, MAS said.

The space will ultimately help to close the gap in the East River Greenway between East 38th and East 60th streets.

The design principles released on Tuesday as part of a larger report about the future of the project were culled from July's gathering and offer some guidance for how to make the best use of soon-to-be open space on the East Side.

Councilman Daniel Garodnick secured $1 million from the city budget for the park's design project. 

That won’t be enough for a total renovation, which will begin once an engineering study has been completed for the site. But Garodnick said it could “jumpstart creation of amenities in what will be our pier."

MAS recommended setting up a conservancy or nonprofit organization to help support the park on the pier, through fundraising, programming and maintenance.